Abeautiful, creative and unique addition to Broadmead's shopping quarter, Milliner's Guild is Bristol's only hat shop, offering the city's fashionistas the most exquisite, couture quality hats.
Milliner's Guild opened in the revitalised St James' Arcade, Broadmead, last autumn, and its stunning display of hats and accessories is already turning heads.
From charming bridal headpieces and statement hats to casual sun hats and head scarves, everything is hand-made by professional milliners working to their own original designs – and it's all perfectly affordable.
The stylish shop, painted in striking turquoise, has an elegant, vintage feel. Its wide range of hats and fascinators are mounted on long-necked mannequin heads and antique, wooden hat stands.
To the rear of the shop there's a display of bridal veils, tiaras and headpieces, while scarves are artistically draped from hangers and a tailor's dummy.
Milliner's Guild also has a range of classic and contemporary jewellery on display, while gorgeous hat boxes, a velvet chaise longue and an antique wooden dresser add to the vintage vibe.
The boutique has a very theatrical feel to it, so it comes as no surprise that owner Ani Townsend's background is in hat and costume design for the stage. The talented designer and maker is from Filton, but moved to London to do a costume design degree, specialising in millinery, and spent the next seven years in the capital.
She was then the resident milliner at Welsh National Opera between 2005 and 2012, creating hats and head-dresses for their prestigious works.
Ani has also worked on numerous film and theatre productions, including Bristol Old Vic hits, Far Away and The Little Mermaid.
But last year, it was time for Ani to embark on a new chapter.
"My husband and I had a baby and theatre hours simply didn't suit family life," she smiles. "I needed a new challenge that suited our new life, and this felt like the perfect opportunity.
"Plus there are no other hat shops in Bristol, so here we are!"
Milliner's Guild features the work of designers who have been hand-picked based on the quality of their work, ensuring there is a range of different styles to choose from, including Ani's own creations.
Everything in the shop is either one-of-a-kind or part of a very short run, so not only can you buy the perfect hat for you, but you can also avoid turning up to an event in the same headwear as someone else.
With this in mind, I assumed the price tags would be eye-watering. On the contrary – prices are the same as you would find in any quality high street chain store.
And if you have something very particular in mind, Ani also offers a bespoke service with colour matching and design facilities, which is ideal for weddings, balls and the races.
She says: "I think I'm offering beautiful, unique, quality hats for people as well a retail outlet for talented milliners.
"We have some fantastic designers, both new talent as well as award-winning, established milliners."
Designers include couture milliner Sarah Cant, who is course director for the highly-regarded Kensington and Chelsea College and won International Hat Designer of the Year 2001, and Gloucester-based Esther Louise, whose award-winning sculptural and textural designs are hugely popular.
The boutique has already sparked plenty of interest.
"Bristolians are very keen on supporting local, independent businesses and designers, which is great," Ani tells me.
"They are also a very creative bunch and love to own something a little bit unusual.
"Some of our milliners that are based elsewhere, in rather more conservative areas, suggest more muted colours and our customers say 'Oh this is lovely, but do you have something brighter and more vibrant?'"
In addition to offering Bristol shoppers exquisite headwear and giving talented designers a retail outlet, Ani is also keen to introduce new people to the art of millinery by offering courses in the workshop above the shop.
She says: "We're passionate about sharing our love of millinery and run weekly and three-day classes teaching the skills used in the creation of our products.
"We've had a great response and are currently fully booked, but we will be adding more courses very soon."
Milliner's Guild Unit 15, St James' Arcade, Broadmead, Bristol, BS1 3JD. Open Mon to Weds by appointment only and Thurs to Sat 10am to 5pm. Tel 07939 230 222.
Thank you to Bristol Post for this article, click here.